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History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834]

History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834]

to speak, and the lame to walk: and the time speedily  cometh that great things are to be shown forth unto the children  of men: but without faith shall not any thing be shown forth ex cept desolations upon Babylon, the same which has made all  nations [drink] of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And there  are none that doeth good except those who are ready to  receive the fulness of my gospel which I have sent forth  to this generation:
4 Wherefore I have called upon the weak things of the  world, those who are unlearned and despised to thresh the nations  by the power of my Spirit: and their arm shall be my arm, and I will  be their shield and their buckler, and I will gird up their loins and  they shall fight manfully for me: and their enemies shall be under their  feet: and I let fall the sword in their behalf; and by the fire of  mine indignation will I preserve them. And the poor and the meek  shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking  forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand; and they  shall learn the parable of the fig-tree, for even now already summer  is nigh, and I have sent forth the fulness of my gospel by the hand of  my servant Joseph: And in weakness have I blessed him, and I have  given unto him the keys of the kingdom mystery of those things which  have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the  world, and things which shall come from this time until the [time] of my com ing, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead.
5. Wherefore watch over him that his faith fail not, and it shall be  given by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, that knoweth all things; and a  commandment I give unto thee, that thou shalt write for him; and  the scriptures shall be given even as they are in mine own bosom,  to the salvation of mine own elect: for they will hear my voice, and  shall see me, and shall not be asleep, and shall abide the day  of the day of my coming, for they shall be purified even as I am  pure. And now I say unto you, tarry with him and [he] shall journey  with you; forsake him not, and surely these things shall be  fulfilled. And a in as much as ye do not write, behold it shall be given  unto him to prophesy: and thou shall preach my gospel and  call on the holy prophets to prove his words, as they shall be given him.
6. Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye  are bound, and I will cause the heavens to shake for your  good, and Satan shall tremble, and Zion shall rejoice upon [p. 79]
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This document, volume A-1, is the first of the six volumes of the “Manuscript History of the Church.” The collection was compiled over the span of seventeen years, 1838 to 1856. Volume A-1 encompasses the period from JS’s birth in 1805 to 30 August 1834, just after the return of the Camp of Israel (later known as Zion’s Camp) from Missouri to Kirtland, Ohio. For a fuller discussion of the entire six-volume work, see the general introduction to the history.
In April 1838 JS renewed his effort to draft a “history” with the aid of his counselor Sidney Rigdon. George W. Robinson served as scribe. JS’s journal for late April and early May 1838 notes six days on which JS, Rigdon, and Robinson were engaged in “writing history.” Though not completed and no longer extant, that draft laid the foundation for what became a six-volume manuscript eventually published as the “History of Joseph Smith,” and at least a portion of its contents are assumed to have been included in the manuscript presented here.
On 11 June 1839 in Commerce, Illinois, JS once again began dictating his “history.” James Mulholland now served as scribe. Apparently the narrative commenced where the earlier 1838 draft left off. When work was interrupted in July 1839, Mulholland inscribed the draft material, including at least some of Robinson’s earlier material, into a large record book already containing the text of an incomplete history previously produced over a span of two years, 1834–1836. For the new history, Mulholland simply turned the ledger over and began at the back of the book. The volume was later labeled A-1 on its spine, identifying it as the first of multiple volumes of the manuscript history.
Prior to his untimely death on 3 November 1839, Mulholland recorded the first fifty-nine pages in the volume. Subsequently, his successor, Robert B. Thompson, contributed about sixteen more pages before his death in August 1841. William W. Phelps then added a little over seventy-five pages. However, it was not until Willard Richards was appointed JS’s “private secretary and historian” that substantial progress was made on the compilation of the history. Richards would contribute the remainder of the text inscribed in the 553-page first volume. The narrative recorded in A-1 was completed in August 1843. Thomas Bullock and Charles Wandell subsequently added sixteen pages of “Addenda” material, which provided notes, extensive revisions, or additional text to be inserted in the original manuscript where indicated. For instance, several of the addenda expanded on the account of the Camp of Israel as initially recorded.
JS dictated or supplied information for much of A-1, and he personally corrected the first forty-two pages before his death. As planned, his historian-scribes maintained the first-person, chronological narrative format initially established in the volume. When various third-person accounts were drawn upon, they were generally converted to the first person, as if JS was directly relating the account. After JS’s death, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, and others modified and corrected the manuscript as they reviewed material before its eventual publication.
Beginning in March 1842 the church’s Nauvoo periodical, the Times and Seasons, began publishing the narrative as the “History of Joseph Smith.” At the time of JS’s death only the history through December 1831 had been published. When the final issue of the Times and Seasons, dated 15 February 1846 appeared, the account had been carried forward through August 1834—the end of the material recorded in A-1. The “History of Joseph Smith” was also published in England in the church periodical the Millennial Star beginning in June 1842. Once a press was established in Utah and the Deseret News began publication, the “History of Joseph Smith” once more appeared in print in serialized form. Beginning with the November 1851 issue, the narrative picked up where the Times and Seasons had left off over five years earlier.
Aside from the material dictated or supplied by JS prior to his murder, the texts for A-1 and for the history’s subsequent volumes were drawn from a variety of primary and secondary sources including JS’s diaries and letters, minutes of meetings, the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, church and other periodicals, reports of JS’s discourses, and the reminiscences and recollections of church members. The narrative in A-1 provides JS’s personal account of the foundational events of his life as a prophet and the early progress of the church. It also encompasses contentions and disputations that erupted between the Latter-day Saints and their neighbors in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri. While it remains difficult to distinguish JS’s own contributions from composition of his historian-scribes, the narrative trenchantly captures the poignancy and intensity of his life while offering an enlightening account of the birth of the church he labored to establish.

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